I read a lot. I also was exposed to the usual amount of other media (movies, television, music, etc.). And about half of those movies and televisions shows (and a fair number of books) are set in New York City. As a result, they throw out names of landmarks like they’re things everyone should know. As just one example that sticks out right now, in Tootsie, Michael and George (his agent) meet for lunch at the Russian Tea Room. Well, George doesn’t know that it’s Michael he’s meeting, but that’s beside the point. But they just drop that name there — Russian Tea Room — like it’s something we should know. Other names are dropped into media, like Central Park, the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building*, and Grand Central Station and I desperately wanted to actually see them. To visit them and make them real to me and not just names in a movie/television show/book/song**.
And besides that, I have always loved Chicago. When I was growing up, the only city in the country larger than Chicago was New York City. So I kind of figured that if I loved Chicago, I should love New York City, as well. And I wanted to go to see if that held true (and it really does, though I still love Chicago more).
Back in 1981 when we went to Niagara Falls, I asked my folks if we could go to New York City while we were “there.” Of course, they aren’t actually that close together; it’s still a six-hour drive. Niagara Falls is, however, a heck of a lot closer to New York City than Chicago is. My mother was actually disgusted by the idea. She had been to New York for the World’s Fair in 1964 and she said that the city was dirty and disgusting and she never wanted to go back.
In 1988, I started dating the man who’s now my ex-husband (and I really need him to pick a pseudonym — otherwise I’ll just start calling him Thomas (I used a random number generator to pick a number between 1 and 100 and then consulted a list of the top 100 names from the year he was born and that’s the result). We’d been dating for about six months by then and that was the longest I’d ever dated anyone. My mom was pretty sure we were in it for the long haul and so, since this might be my last family vacation with them (I actually went on one more, in 1989), she asked me where I wanted to go. There was really no competition. I asked for the one city I’d always asked for — New York City. And, finally, I got my wish.
Oh, by the way, my mom said that New York City was much nicer than she remembered and that she wished we’d planned to stay another couple of days.
* In the song “Hard-Knock Life” in Annie, they mimic Miss Hannigan saying that the floor should shine like the top of the Chrysler Building. I was 13 or so the first time I heard this and I asked my mom. She didn’t know, but obviously the audience was expected to.
**Or idiom in the case of “Grand Central Station,” which has come to mean a busy place.